In the City Camp turned 5 this summer; we even had a party! And the truth is, we have so much to celebrate.
Our little camp has come a long way.
This summer alone, we connected 440 individual campers with the Jewish community and Israel – many for the first time.
Since each camper attended an average of 2.7 weeks (many attended all 8!), that’s nearly 1200 weeks of summer fun.
To put it another way, that’s:
- 1,160 Shabbat challahs
- 12,180 activity choices
- 19 awesome field trips
- 54 beautiful renditions of Hatikva – one each day!
- Countless new and strengthened Jewish friendships
Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to keep camp affordable AND award nearly $30,000 in need-based camper scholarships.
Like any 5-year-old, we’re pretty proud!
Specifically, we’re proud because once again, we saw our mission come to life as day campers strengthened and formed new Jewish friendships, grew as individuals, and connected with the Jewish community and Israel.
If you came to visit camp during the summer, you know how incredible it is to see the next generation of Jewish friendships forming right before your eyes. The giant smiles on every. single. face. Campers making friendship bracelets for one another and high-fiving after scoring hockey goals. The immediate hug reflex that occurs whenever campers and staff are approached by a camera.
Since camp has ended, parents are setting up play dates, inviting camp friends to birthday parties, and calling counselors to babysit. Counselors, too, are getting together on the weekends. The relationships formed at our Jewish day camp are extending into the everyday lives of our families.
It’s no wonder so many famous leaders credit summer camp as a primary contributor to their success. Camp allows young people to try new things, explore their creativity, and interact with one another in a way that strengthens communication and decision-making capabilities, relies on teamwork, and encourages individual expression.
Our first-time kid campers who arrived timidly on day one, dropped their backpacks at their bunk areas on day three like they owned the place. Tweens who set off on their first overnight with trepidation came back telling us about the awesome fire they built. We had to enforce time limits as dozens of campers who had never performed before a crowd signed up to participate in the Shabbat talent show.
This December, when classmates ask our campers why they don’t celebrate Christmas, we hope they will reply with confidence, “I’m Jewish. I celebrate Hanukkah!”
A connection to the Jewish community and Israel
One of the things we are most proud of is the way our diverse Jewish population comes together to celebrate Judaism and Israel at camp. 65% of our campers attend public schools or non-Jewish private schools. 28% of our campers do not belong to a synagogue. Many of them are hearing Hebrew for the first time and making their first Jewish friends at camp.
So you can imagine how incredible it is when they come together each day at morning shira (song) and know every word and dance move to Hine Ma Tov (even at warp speed). When they turn to face the Israeli flag to sing Hatikva we know it’s a tune they will have in their heads and their hearts for the rest of their lives.
Our not-so-secret sauce
It’s something we hear from parents every single day – and something we know from our own camp days: Staff are THE critical component of a camp’s lasting impact.
We have made a lot of changes over the years, but through it all we have maintained our commitment to hiring all Jewish counselors. The reason is simple; we understand the impact a positive Jewish role model can have on a young Jewish child. As a camper, your counselor is pretty much the coolest person you have ever met. Nothing means more to you than his/her approval and recognition. This summer, as we watched campers clamor to sit next to counselors at every opportunity, we knew the counselor relationships we formed at Jewish overnight camp were forming right here at our Jewish day camp.
This winter, when our campers see counselors at our reunion or unexpectedly run in to them at a restaurant, they will freeze with nervous excitement. This is what success looks like.
We could go on and on telling you the stories we have heard since camp ended. How one counselor who, while babysitting for siblings she met at camp, overheard one telling the other, “You’re not showing kavod!” Or how two 5-year-old brothers (who had their camp dreamcatchers hanging in their bedroom) were able to name all of their counselors and bunkmates upon looking at summer photos online.
So it’s happening. We’ve created a day camp that is achieving many of the same results as overnight camp. And it’s happening right before our eyes.
5 is pretty big – just ask our littlest campers. Interestingly, when we researched the Jewish significance of the number 5, we found that it symbolizes semicompletion. How appropriate, as we still have so much more we can do to enrich our vibrant Jewish community.
As we reflect on the summer, examine the numbers, review the survey feedback, and listen to the stories, we are already hard at work to make summer 2017 our best summer yet.
Thank you for being part of our first 5 years. Stick around – the party’s just getting started!
Read our 2014 article, “Jewish Day Camp Works Too,” on eJewishPhilanthropy.